Academic Ceremonies - Commencement
Daniel Mark Fogel, Professor of English
and President of the University of Vermont
Chairman Cioffi, members of the Board of Trustees, honored guests, faculty, staff, family and friends of our graduates—and, above all, members of the Class of 2011, welcome to our 207th Commencement at the University of Vermont.
Class of 2011, your graduation is upon you, this moment that seemed so distant—like a glimmering mirage on the horizon—when you first met many of the people who sit next to you today as classmates and friends. The milestones along the way have been many. The term paper you thought you’d never complete; the class that changed your perspective, changed your major, and changed your life; the championships and the heartbreaks; the final exam that kept you studying deep into the night, a memory that, perhaps, is just now beginning to fade.
During your years at UVM, you have formed a community. What’s more, you have joined a community that reaches far beyond this place and time.
You are a part of the University of Vermont story across more than two centuries of history. Ours is a cherished campus, where that past is immediate and pervasive, part of your daily life even as you grab a sandwich from Pam’s Deli, a seat on the Green, and a view of the lake. This abiding landscape, the fundamental contours of bay and mountain ridge, aren’t so different from that known to the native peoples or the marvel that met the eyes of Samuel de Champlain on his first voyage into this region.
Ira Allen, James Marsh, Justin Morrill, Bertha Terrill, and John Dewey are just a few of the iconic individuals from our shared history. They, too, form the very landscape of this place. And, perhaps as you’ve been in their presence daily for the last several years – a statue, a name on a building, a portrait in a gilded frame — they have been easy to take for granted. But their minds and their work are part of the fabric of this place and, indeed, of American higher education.
Just as these individuals and so many others have created the University of Vermont that we know today, so have our students. It was student initiative, in fact, that first started to transform the green from a rough clearing in the wilderness to the beautiful park-like setting that we know today. It was student commitment that sparked our first recycling efforts some twenty years ago, an early start on becoming one of the nation’s most sustainable universities. And it was student activism that pushed the campus toward levels of diversity that some would have never thought possible.
Today, you transition in your relationship with this university from students to alumni. With pride, your achievements will carry the power of the University of Vermont community far beyond Burlington. Some of you will enrich this wonderful Green Mountain State with your work and your lives. Others will settle in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., throughout our broad land and our ever smaller world. Your efforts and achievements will join with that of tens of thousands of fellow alumni, people like Nobel Peace Prize recipients Jody Williams and Dr. John McGill; people like Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Annie Proulx; people like Kathy Giusti, just recognized in Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people for her establishment of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
You graduate into a world where the pace of change is breathtaking, perhaps even frightening. I hope you will go forth from here with the conviction that you are not merely leaves blown before the winds of change, but that you have the ability to create change of your own design. It will never be simple, nor will it be easy. But I urge you to hold on to what you feel now – the optimism and energy, the open mind and sense of possibility of a new college graduate. And I would not be much of a professor if I did not urge you to keep pace with change through a commitment to learning throughout your life. When, a week ago, you stepped out of a UVM classroom for the final time, it was only a beginning.
On this day of celebration, there are many people to thank. Let us begin with the families who helped you become the person who earned admission to the University of Vermont, the mothers and fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters who supported you mentally, spiritually…financially, during your years here. Class of 2011, please join me in giving them a hand.
Families, your students have been well cared for during their years here. They have studied with an outstanding faculty. They have been supported by a talented and dedicated staff that is the bedrock of this institution. Class of 2011 and families, please join me in a round of applause in appreciation for this University’s wonderful faculty and staff.
Let us pause, also, to pay respect to the latest in a long and proud UVM tradition of service to the nation. I ask that our ROTC graduates who are being commissioned as officers in the United States Army stand and be recognized with a round of applause.
And finally, our entire Class of 2011, we thank you. During your years on this campus you have become woven into the fabric of this institution, and you have enriched us all. It is now your time to build the life you’ve imagined, to go forth as alumni, to take the knowledge and experience you’ve gained at the University of Vermont into the world.
Best wishes and congratulations.
Last modified June 24 2011 02:37 PM